WHAT DREAMS MAY COME (1998)

"After life there is more. The end is just the beginning."

Cast: Robin Williams, Annabella Sciorra, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Max Von Sydow. Director: Vincent Ward. Producers: Stephen Simon, Barnet Bain. Executive Producers: Ted Field, Scott Kroopf, Erica Huggins, Ron Bass. Production Co: Interscope Communications. Screenplay: Ron Bass. Style: Romantic Drama.

Length: 113 min. MPAA Rating: "PG-13".

Based on a book by Richard Matheson.

Does destiny unite people? Do people have soul mates? What does it mean to die for the deceased? What does a loved oneís death mean for the survivors? Where does death transport us? Do we create a personalized heaven or is heaven some place we ascend to and inhabit? What would an individualized heaven look like? Who resides within its borders? Can reconciliation occur after death? Is death the end, or is it just the beginning? Where is God in all this? Those questions of ultimacy float through What Dreams May Come.

Two sailboats gently brush up against each other on a perfect lake somewhere near Switzerland. This chance encounter brings together Chris (Robin Williams) and Annie (Annabella Sciorra). They meet. They fall in love. They marry. We parachute into their lives approximately sixteen years later to discover Chris as a loving husband, compassionate doctor, and frustrated father of teenagers Ian and Marie. The children are killed in a car accident.

After Ian and Marie die, Chris and Annie diverge in their efforts to cope with their tragic loss. Chris immerses himself in his medical practice. Annie focuses on her artistic career with partial success. She attempts suicide in her desperation for answers and release from her pain. Annieís depression requires institutionalization. Largely through Chrisí efforts, Annie recovers adequately to resume employment as an art gallery director.

Four years later, Chris unwillingly sacrifices his own life as he tries to rescue an automobile accident victim. Chris rejects death; Heaven waits until he realizes what has happened. Chris receives assistance from a spiritual guide, Albert (Cuba Gooding, Jr.), as he wrestles with his transition. Chris tries to cling to his life with Annie but realizes that doing so causes her great pain. When Chris accepts his new status, a new world of imagination yields its delights.

Chris reunites with his old dog, Katie. His children, in heavenly guises, pursue him. Chris learns important aspects of his new existence that will help him to maximize the experience. "Thought is real; itís the physical thatís the illusion." "Heaven is big enough for everyone to have their own universe." 

The universe resembles Annieís paintings. Chris grieves for Annie. He cannot reconcile separation from his wife. Chris confesses that his wondrous and new existence will not prompt him to "need Annie any less." Chris learns that inconsolable Annie committed suicide. Hell relegates suicides to a "special place." Chris undertakes a quest to recover her. He locates a Tracker (Max Von Sydow) to assist him. Neither heaven nor hell will keep them apart. Chris willingly sacrifices all to be with his beloved.

 

Shipwrecked souls litter hell. Eternal fire belches from fissures. Sustained suffering and pain linger in the smoke. Annie lacks awareness of her plight. She inhabits a home in hell. Chrisí sacrificial love helps Annie confront her depression, grief, and guilt. He liberates her successfully; she is reborn, reconciled, and reunited with her family in Chrisí imagined heaven.

Overview prepared by Deb Ormay & Jim Knapp